Gender disparities in cognition will not diminish

July 28, 2014, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis

The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, investigated the extent to which improvements in living conditions and educational opportunities over a person's life affect cognitive abilities and their implications for men and women.

"Our results show that there is no reason to expect all cognitive gender differences will diminish," says Daniela Weber, IIASA researcher and lead author of the study. "However, the findings from this study suggest that if women and men had equal levels of education, then we should expect a female advantage in episodic memory, a male advantage in numeracy, and no gender differences in category fluency (such as naming as many different animals as possible within one minute)."

The authors examined data from the "Survey of Health, Ageing, and Retirement in Europe" in which more than 31,000 men and women over the age of 50 from 13 European countries answered questions that tested cognitive functions including memory, mathematical ability, and .

Analysis of the data showed gender differences in cognitive abilities to be associated with the age of the participant, country of origin, and the living conditions and educational opportunities participants were exposed to when entering adulthood and middle age.

The study demonstrates how the magnitude of cognitive gender differences varied systematically across regions and birth cohorts. In regions that had undergone improvements in living conditions and expansion of gender-equal educational opportunities, women displayed superior memory to men, men's advantage in decreased, and equivalent abilities in category fluency were observed.

"The results suggest that we should expect that women demonstrate relative strength in particular cognitive functions while men in others, even in societies with higher living conditions and more gender equal educational opportunities," explains Weber.

Previous studies have shown that men have an advantage in tasks assessing visuospatial and mathematical abilities, whereas women are found to outperform men in tasks assessing episodic memory and reading literacy, with no differences normally observed in category fluency and vocabulary. In addition some research proposes biologically based explanations for these differences in between the genders, whereas others indicate that societal factors influence the .

Explore further: Poor cardiovascular health linked to memory, learning deficits

More information: Proceedings of the National Academy of Science DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1319538111

Related Stories

Poor cardiovascular health linked to memory, learning deficits

June 11, 2014
The risk of developing cognitive impairment, especially learning and memory problems, is significantly greater for people with poor cardiovascular health than people with intermediate or ideal cardiovascular health, according ...

Experiences at every stage of life contribute to cognitive abilities in old age

July 25, 2014
Early life experiences, such as childhood socioeconomic status and literacy, may have greater influence on the risk of cognitive impairment late in life than such demographic characteristics as race and ethnicity, a large ...

Stronger early reading skills predict higher intelligence later

July 24, 2014
A new study of identical twins has found that early reading skill might positively affect later intellectual abilities. The study, in the journal Child Development, was conducted by researchers at the University of Edinburgh ...

Women under 60 with diabetes at much greater risk for heart disease

October 31, 2013
Results of a Johns Hopkins study published today in the journal Diabetes Care found that young and middle-aged women with type 2 diabetes are at much greater risk of coronary artery disease than previously believed.

Recommended for you

Babies' babbling betters brains, language

January 18, 2018
Babies are adept at getting what they need - including an education. New research shows that babies organize mothers' verbal responses, which promotes more effective language instruction, and infant babbling is the key.

Inherited IQ can increase in early childhood

January 18, 2018
When it comes to intelligence, environment and education matter – more than we think.

College branding makes beer more salient to underage students

January 18, 2018
In recent years, major beer companies have tried to capitalize on the salience of students' university affiliations, unveiling marketing campaigns and products—such as "fan cans," store displays, and billboard ads—that ...

Modulating molecules: Study shows oxytocin helps the brain to modulate social signals

January 17, 2018
Between sights, sounds, smells and other senses, the brain is flooded with stimuli on a moment-to-moment basis. How can it sort through the flood of information to decide what is important and what can be relegated to the ...

Baby brains help infants figure it out before they try it out

January 17, 2018
Babies often amaze their parents when they seemingly learn new skills overnight—how to walk, for example. But their brains were probably prepping for those tasks long before their first steps occurred, according to researchers.

Reducing sessions of trauma-focused psychotherapy does not affect effectiveness

January 17, 2018
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) patients treated with as few as five sessions of trauma-focused psychotherapy find it equally effective as receiving 12 sessions.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.